I sincerely regret that children can experience a long waiting time for treatment for scoliosis, and I am conscious of the burden that this places on them and their families.
I have met regularly with the Senior Management of the HSE and the CEO of Children’s Health Ireland to discuss their short term and long-term plans to provide a better service for patients and their families.
Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) published the update on the Scoliosis 10-Point Action Plan on 12th July. This marks the second update to the plan, following an interim progress report which issued in October 2018. The plan, which was co-designed by clinicians and managers in paediatric orthopaedics and with the three scoliosis advocacy groups - Scoliosis Advocacy Network Group (SANG), Scoliosis Support and Awareness Ireland, and Scoliosis Ireland - sets out how additional funding provided by the HSE is invested to support children and young people with scoliosis. The July publication provides an update on the progress made to date up against the 10 action points and demonstrates the completion of four of the actions with a commitment to implementing the remaining six actions this year.
CHI advise that their priority for 2019 is to ensure that capacity is available to schedule patients that require surgery based on clinical priority. The addition of a new orthopaedic consultant post and the extension of theatre opening hours will continue to support the management of general orthopaedic waiting lists and enable consultants to better manage both spinal referral patients, and general orthopaedics, in order to reduce the number of patients waiting for a surgical procedure.
CHI further advise that as part of the Action Plan, additional Multidisciplinary Team staff appointments have been made across CHI increasing support to the service. In this regard, 88% of HSE funded posts, as per the 2019 National Service Plan, are in place, with the remaining posts at various stages of the recruitment process.
In terms of activity, across CHI a total of 418 scoliosis-related surgical procedures were performed in 2018, compared with 371 in 2017 and 224 in 2016. To date this year, CHI have carried out 251 such procedures.
In relation to the particular query raised regarding the number of children waiting for spinal fusion operations, and pathways to facilities in Cappagh Hospital for adolescents in need of spinal fusion operations, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy.